Cal Lutheran considers film safety amid fatal ‘Rust’ incident

Ysabella Gonzalez, Reporter

On Oct. 21, the director of photography on the film “Rust,” Halyna Hutchins, was killed after a prop gun was misfired on set. This incident has resulted in more people considering the safety policies involved in film production closely. 

Safety is always a concern on film sets, Interim Director of Film and TV and Associate Dean of Interdisciplinary Programs and Community Outreach Colleen Windham-Hughes said.

Over the summer in 2019, the Department Chair of Communication Jean Sandlin along with Windham-Hughes and the safety chair of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Kent Jorgensen, met to talk about the possibility of him teaching a class at Cal Lutheran on production safety.

Jorgensen is a California Lutheran University alumnus that has worked in Hollywood for over 30 years. Sandlin said Kent was the one who created the protocols for film and production during COVID-19. 

Windham-Hughes said Jorgensen is, “super passionate about film making and he got into it because of the dream, grandeur, everything.” She also said that while Jorgensen did get into film for the grandeur, he was still very grounded.

Windham-Hughes said that Jorgensen always said, “The foundation for any beautiful, amazing film is the safety of the humans involved. That’s why they have all those plans and training”. 

“He’s very practical, and the thing he says all the time with the Union is, ‘You got to have a plan’,” Windham-Hughes said. 

According to Windham-Hughes, he’s the person that got the call from the set of “Rust” after the fatal shooting occurred. 

Windham-Hughes said that Jorgensen explained that there was a plan and a protocol, but it wasn’t followed in about four places. 

Windham-Hughes said that at Cal Lutheran, there is an Alpha version of the filming plan application. It’s a partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences, Media Services and Campus Safety. Campus Safety sees every filming plan application, where campus locations are involved. In the application, students need to talk about what they want to use, what props, stunts, etc. Campus safety will review it and sometimes ask questions if they need clarification, but otherwise they’ll approve it. 

“Safety is not in competition with art or creativity. It’s worth it to put good plans in place to ensure the safety of people involved and artistry and creativity can grow out of that,” Windham-Hughes said. 

Windham-Hughes, Jorgensen and Sandlin were discussing the prospect of Jorgensen teaching a class on campus. Windham-Hughes said one of the things they paid the most attention to was technical training and safety, not because there have been any accidents on campus, but because it’s still a new program at California Lutheran University. 

“One of the areas we knew we wanted to grow was the film program,” Sandlin said.

Windham-Hughes said that the class didn’t end up going through since it didn’t have enough students signed up for it. 

In current film classes, professor David Grannis does cover safety, but Kent was going to take it further. Even introducing the idea of helping students get certified to give them a boost in the competitive industry, Sandlin said.

“I think people are now thinking about it more, because of the tragedy that happened on the ‘Rust’ set, but it’s always a concern in the industry. The industry has never stopped worrying about safety,” Sandlin said.